Passion Sunday

"He who desires to go on advancing from virtue to virtue should meditate frequently on the Passion of Jesus." Saint Bonaventure

On this day the crucifixes, statues, etc., are veiled to express the deep mourning of the Church for the Passion and Death of her Spouse and Saviour. The whole of Lent is dedicated to our Lord's Passion, but the last two weeks are in a more particular manner consecrated to honor that mystery. All through the week, in the Mass and other offices of the Church, the memory of His sufferings is daily renewed. The faithful ought in like manner to think on or to read some part of the Passion every day. We may consider Who He is that suffered, how much He suffered in various ways, from whom He suffered, for whom He suffered, and with what love, what generosity, what meekness, what zeal for His Father's glory, what patience, what humiliations, what fortitude, and what obedience. These thoughts will come back to us again when we are suffering, and will prove a soothing balm.

Five Paters and Aves in honor of the five bleeding wounds of our Lord, three Paters and Aves in honor of His three hours' death agony on the cross, for all those in their agony, are suitable devotions at this time.

Friday this week is specially devoted to the sorrows of our Blessed Lady -- the favorite of Heaven, and at the same time the Queen of Martyrs. Who will not find comfort in considering that, as Mary's sufferings prepared her for her glorious place in heaven, so our sufferings are so many jewels to enrich our crowns in eternity? The Stabat Mater read or sung this day (Friday) will help us to enter into the spirit of the church.

"Thy Cross, dear Lord our only stay,
We hail on this thy Passion-day;
In loving hearts Thy grace increase,
And sinners from their guilt release."

Example -- Execution of a Soldier

On February 3, 1850, a soldier, Jean Guth, was condemned to death for the murder of his captain. On the morning of his execution, at about 3.30am, I took him the Holy viaticum. At four o'clock the prison van was at the door. He thanked the keeper for the kindness he had shown him. There were tears in many eyes. "Farewell, Guth," said the keeper; "die like a brave soldier and a good Christian." During the three hours and a half that the journey lasted his calmness never forsook him. God was with him in that hour.

Our lord is with us, my child," I said to him, "and if we have Jesus, we have everything." "Yes, yes," he answered, "I am quite content." And a moment afterwards: "I hardly like to say so, but I feel as if I were going to a wedding. God has permitted it all for my good to save my soul. It is a great consolation to me that my poor captain died a Christian death. I shall see him again; he is praying for me."

He recited the Rosary, his eyes fixed with love upon the crucifix. "My God has saved me," he said; "I believe that He will be very merciful to me. He went up to Calvary carrying His cross. I am with Him, and, like Him, I will gladly submit to everything if they desire to bind me or bandage my eyes... Soldiers are lost," he said again, "because they will not listen to you. Without you, without religion, the whole world would be lost." We passed close to the barracks where he had committed his crime. He said a prayer for the captain. "I cannot conceive what possessed me," he exclaimed; "I did not desire his death." And a minute after: "If by a single sin I could escape being shot, I would not commit it; that is what I feel. I have nothing left on earth; I am going home to God."

At half-past seven we stopped in the plain of Satory, near Versailles. It was the field of the military manoeuvres. We descended. Guth was pale, but composed. An officer read his sentence. "I recognize the justice of my punishment," said the condemned; "I repent of my crime; I ask pardon from God, and I love Him with my whole heart." Then he knelt down. For the last time I gave him the crucifix to kiss. "Father," he repeated in a changed voice, "into Thy hands I commend my spirit.... I unite my death to that of Jesus my Saviour. Farewell! farewell!" I embraced him. He extended his arms in the form of a cross, and bent his head. An instant later human justices was satisfied, and the soul of the poor criminal, purified and transfigured by religion, entered into the bosom of Him Who pardons everything to the repentant sinner!" -- Mgr. de Segur

Taken from Catholic Life (pages 33-36), available from The Neumann Press.